32 Most Common Tourist Scams in Philippines

Safety at Manila, Iloilo City, Baguio, Cebu, Cagayan de Oro, Davao, Tagbilaran, Vigan, Zamboanga, Banaue, Batangas, Boracay, Camarines Sur, Coron, El Nido, Palawan
Note: If you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. World Nomads Travel Insurance, backed by Lonely Planet & National Geographic, is one we recommend. Check it out before your adventure.

 

Malcapuya Island

Malcapuya Island

 

Philippines is a beautiful archipelago of islands in Asia.

You will find great beaches, pristine lagoons, resorts, beautiful nature, friendly locals, adventures and getaways all at an affordable price.

Unfortunately however, many still suffer from poverty and struggle to make ends meet, which goes some way in explaining the large number of tourist targeted scams and safety concerns in the country.

Read on to learn how to protect yourself in this beautiful land!

 

 

A. TOURIST ACTIVITIES

1. Ativan gang / family scam

Real scammers. Source: globalnation.inquirer.net

 

How it works:

This is a sequential scam.

First, a female scammer will approach you and make small talk. Once trust is built, she will invite you for a meal with their family.

Should you accept, you will meet the family and get to know everyone young and old.

Once you feel all warm and fuzzy, they will invite you to an out of town trip together.

Meanwhile, they will warn you about pickpockets in Philippines and act like they are looking out for you.

That is actually just a ploy to fish information on what valuables you are carrying.

Once you are out of town with the family, they will find the right opportunity (usually through a drink) to drug you with Ativan (a sedative), and steal your valuables.

There have been even reported cases of rape, so do beware.

 

What to do:

Avoid engaging strangers who approach you first in an overly friendly manner.

 

2. House gambling / cards / poker / blackjack scam

Family in Philippines playing a card game

Family in Philippines playing a card game. Source: qz.com

 

How it works:

This is another common scam in Asia (e.g. Cambodia, Malaysia, etc).

A stranger will first approach you and try to befriend you. For instance, he may ask where you are from.

It does not matter what you say, as he will say that he has a relative who is going there soon or share some other anecdotes he knows of your country.

Next, he will invite you to his house for a meal, hoping you can help his relative who is really anxious and has many questions.

However, once you reach his home, you will find people playing gambling games such as poker or blackjack there and you will be forced to play.

These scammers will let you win the first few rounds. Then, the real fun begins as the stakes get higher.

Your losses start piling up and should you refuse to pay, gang members will appear and threaten your life.

 

What to do:

Every time you hear a stranger claim a relative or someone is going to / in your home country, stay far, far away.

 

3. Pickpockets

 

How it works:

Pickpockets here love to stake out the malls (e.g. Greenbelt Mall in Makati) and public transport (jeepneys especially) for targets, no matter whether you are in Manila, Cebu, or in another city.

These thieves work in gangs, and will hang around to spot anyone carrying an expensive or neglected phone / jewelry / valuable / bag and where it is stored.

Once they mark a target, they surround you and then work like this:

  • One keeps a lookout and blocks passer-bys from seeing the scene.
  • Another blocks, pushes or distracts you (e.g. ask you an innocent question / survey / drop something and ask you about it).
  • A third steals your valuable / slashes your bag and then passes it on.
  • The last hides the loot under a jacket / coat / newspaper and then escapes.

 

What to do:

Stay alert and watch out for suspicious characters, though that is easier said than done.

The best solution is still, to not make yourself look like a target. 

Make it impossible for thieves to steal from you with these methods:

  • Carry around a photocopy of your passport instead of the actual one.
  • Carry small amounts of cash in a cheap spare wallet that you wouldn’t mind losing. Do not leave it in your back pocket.
  • Conceal small valuables in a money belt / hidden pouch, large valuables in a slash-resistant and lockable anti-theft bag.
  • Leave most valuables in your hotel / hostel / apartment safe, secured with hotel safety tools.
  • Get a good good travel insurance (e.g. World Nomads, trusted by Lonely Planet and National Geographic – check our review) which covers loss of valuables.

 

4. The bump and drop

Streets of Manila

Streets of Manila. Source: cnn.com

 

How it works:

This is a common scam globally (e.g. China, Canada, etc) as well.

Usually in a crowded street, you will find a scammer walking in front of you, who then drops a spoilt item for you to step on and then demand compensation from you.

It does not matter even if you do not step on it

In Philippines, besides spoilt items (such as broken phones or spectacles), they may also use takeout boxes containing food taken from the trash, or even a bag of rice!

 

What to do:

Keep a safe distance when walking.

 

5. Fake travel agents

Cardillera Mountain Range tour

Cardillera Mountain Range tour

 

How it works:

This is a painful one to fall for.

It is because you will usually be asked to pay everything upfront and will lose that sum of money with little recourse.

 

What to do:

Engage a licensed, reputable tour operator which you can find via:

  • TourRadar: all the best multi-day tours by established names like Intrepid Travel, G Adventures, Trafalgar, etc can be found here with best price guarantee.
  • Klook: best day tours platform in Asia – excellent curation of tours, tickets and transport with best price guarantee.
  • Your hotel / hostel affiliated tour operators: reliable but generally not the best or cheapest.

To determine if an operator is legitimate, ask these questions:

  • Is the operator licensed and is there a professional website, physical office, business email and working telephone number?
  • Are there online reviews? Do they sound legitimate?
  • Is the price too low to be true? What does it cover (vehicles, guides, safety, insurance, hidden fees, etc)?

When paying:

  • Avoid paying in full upfront unless through a reputable platform / operator.
  • If using an online platform, do not make payment off the platform.

 

6. Familiar face scam

Manila skyline

Manila skyline

 

How it works:

So how this works is that a scammer will bump into you, and then claim that he knows or has seen you before at the hotel which he works at.

He claims to be a security guard or a bellboy or what have you. He might even claim to be the driver who brought you to the hotel.

Good news is that he is on leave today and can bring you to the local spots which tourists do not know.

However, only follow him if you wish to be robbed.

Although this is a common occurrence in Manila, it can really happen anywhere in the world such as in Morocco and Turkey, so do be careful.

 

What to do:

Avoid engaging strangers who approach you first in an overly friendly manner.

As mentioned earlier, we recommend concealing your valuables with a money belt / hidden pouch, and to use a cheap, spare wallet with little cash inside to act as a decoy.

This is because if you do fall for the scam, you can use the decoy wallet to show the scammer that there is little point in exploiting you.

 

7. Sob story scams

Street in Manila

Street in Manila

 

How it works:

You will find these sob story scammers everywhere around the world. Canada especially has some really persistent ones who have been doing the same scam for many years.

In Manila however, things get more serious. This is because there have been reports where victims have been led to dark spots and then robbed or even kidnapped!

The standard sob stories:

  • A scammer can claim to have just been robbed and need some cash to get transport to the police station / nearest embassy.
  • A mom could claim that she needs cash to buy food for her hungry kids.
  • Or a husband could claim to need to rush to the next town to find his sick wife but has just been robbed of all his cash, etc.

 

What to do:

Ignore and move on.

 

8. The “paedophile” scam

Child beggars

Child beggars. Source: aljazeera.com

 

How it works:

This is a creative one. You see a child beggar on the street and decide to do some good by either giving money or food.

Should you do so, the child’s family will suddenly appear and accuse you loudly of being a paedophile.

They then threaten to call the police unless you give them some more money.

 

What to do:

Do not donate. If you want to help, donate to established charities instead.

 

9. Beggars

Beggars in Manila

Beggars in Manila. Source: YouTube – my3DvideoCollections

 

How it works:

Do not give to these beggars as they really do not need help – they are just out to exploit tourists’ kindheartedness.

Further, should you get distracted by them, an accomplice can steal your valuables.

 

What to do:

Do not donate. If you want to help, donate to established charities instead.

In any case, do conceal your valuables / cash securely in a sturdy anti-theft bag that is slash resistant and comes with a locking system or in a money belt / hidden pouch.

 

10. Fake goods

 

How it works:

The stuff you see peddled by street sellers are generally fake.

Even touts who offer drugs like Viagra and Cialis are actually peddling coloured aspirin or something else which could be dangerous for your health.

 

What to do:

Avoid buying unless for a cheap thrill, and haggle if you do indeed buy.

Only buy from established, reputable places which you can find from online travel forums or your hotel / hostel staff.

If you find researching too time-consuming, other options available include:

  • Using local connections: get a local to bring you around.
  • Shopping tour through Klook (best day tours platform in Asia): get a professional guide to bring you around.

 

11. Let’s hang out at a bar

Club in Philippines

Club in Philippines. Source: ph.asiatatler.com

 

How it works:

You might be approached on the streets by a friendly stranger who offers to bring you to a bar full of beautiful ladies.

Should you agree, be ready to get swamped by the working girls who will order outrageously priced lady drinks on your tab.

 

What to do:

Decline and walk off.

However, if you do want to make new local friends, some questions to ponder:

  • Does the restaurant / bar seem legitimate? Are there customers?
  • Is the stranger reading from a script? Evasive about things?
  • Is he / she only bringing you to a particular restaurant or bar?

Some other tricks you can use:

  • Pretend that you have company by suggesting to go another place where you have a few friends at.
  • Ask for prices before ordering. Only drink what your waiter or you have poured.
  • Take a photo together.
  • Leave your valuables in your hotel / hostel / apartment safe secured further with hotel safety tools.

If you fell into the trap:

  • Pay with a credit card but call the bank to dispute your charges immediately after leaving.

 

12. Bar rip-offs

 

How it works:

When at a girly bar, always check the prices first.

Ask if there’s an entrance fee, how much is one beer / drink, how much is a ladies drink and if there is a charge for how long you stay.

 

What to do:

Check out online reviews before visiting a bar, as there have been many reports of all sorts of wild charges added into bills by these bar rip-offs.

 

13. Spiked drinks

Drinks in Philippines

Drinks in Philippines. Source: ph.asiatatler.com

 

How it works:

Single males are usually targeted. If you are a male and out at a bar alone, do be wary when a pretty lady offers to buy you a drink.

You will be paying that back manifolds as you get knocked out with your valuables stolen.

 

What to do:

Do not accept any drinks that you have not seen made in front of you, or to leave it unattended.

Canned or bottled drinks are recommended as it is more difficult for someone to put a sedative inside.

Further, do not flaunt your valuables, leave them in your hotel / hostel / apartment safe which you further secure with hotel safety tools.

 

14. Sex scam

 

How it works:

This scam happens at night clubs / bars, and is perpetuated by an attractive lady who first approaches her victim, a single male.

She explains that she has drifted apart from her abusive husband, and is in desperate need for some intimacy but with no strings attached.

She then offers to bring you to a cheap hotel which she knows.

Over at the hotel room however, a burly, fierce looking man suddenly comes barging in. He’s the husband! Or so he claims.

In Philippines, adultery is illegal, and you can be jailed if the man is really the husband legally. Either way, a payment will be demanded.

In another similar situation, instead of the husband, it would be the dad who barges in.

He will claim that the woman is in fact his daughter and younger than 18. If you do not want to be thrown into jail, you had better pay up.

 

What to do:

Avoid getting yourself in such a situation in the first place.

 

B. TRANSPORT

1. Bullet in bag scam

Locals with luggage wrapped up

Locals with luggage wrapped up. Source: news.com.au

 

How it works:

A relatively recent scam starting in 2015, there have been reports of airport staff / security personnel at Ninoy Aquino International Airport planting live bullets in tourists’ luggage and accusing them of illegally possessing firearms.

A bribe is then demanded for them not to press charges.

These scammers are serious – there have been victims detained for days and charged as well.

So don’t be surprised when you find locals with wrapped bags and luggage at the airport like in the image above:

The good news is that this scam has died off due to the media coverage back in 2015, but it still pays to be cautious as anything can be planted.

 

What to do:

Not much you can do here, besides to use a hard case luggage without external pockets.

If not, keep (all pockets and spaces of) your luggage properly secured and difficult for these scammers to meddle with. Also, keep an eye on your luggage at all times.

Besides using a plastic wrapping service, you can also consider using additional TSA locks, luggage straps or cable ties to add another layer of deterrence.

 

2. Traffic snatch thefts

 

How it works:

This is common globally, such as in Myanmar and Brazil as well.

For instance, at crowded traffic jams, someone might appear out of nowhere and snatch your valuables in the car through the window if it is wind down. Some others may simply smash your window.

Thieves could also drive by on motorbikes and snatch handbags / valuables off pedestrians on the streets.

Another more scheming set-up is where eggs / liquid / some substance is poured onto your windscreen.

Almost all drivers will step out to inspect the situation, and that is when the culprit jumps in to steal your car.

 

What to do:

At crowded places, even seemingly safe places like at a restaurant or hotel:

While out walking / on transport:

  • Use a cross body anti-theft bag facing away from the road / windows of your vehicle.
  • Do not carry valuables in your hands when walking by the road or when beside a vehicle window / train door.
  • Avoid wearing obvious jewelry which can be easily ripped off.

Other protection measures:

  • Leave valuables in your hotel / hostel / apartment safe secured with hotel safety tools.
  • Get a good travel insurance (e.g. World Nomads, trusted by Lonely Planet and National Geographic – check our review) which covers loss of valuables.

 

3. Airline desk overweight luggage

 

How it works:

The National Bureau of Investigation discovered that there are some airline staff who begin weighing your luggage before the weighing scale has reset from weighing of a previous luggage.

The result is that your luggage is heavier than stipulated rules and you are forced to pay a fine.

 

What to do:

Ensure that the scale / machine starts from zero. Request another weighing attempt if you suspect foul play.

You can even bring your own portable weighing scale, especially if your luggage is on the edge of the weight limit.

 

4. Immigration officer bribe

Ninoy Aquino International Airport

Ninoy Aquino International Airport. Source: choosephilippines.com

 

How it works:

Another scam discovered by the National Bureau of Investigation, this is where immigration officers might question your travel documents incessantly and not let you through unless you pay a bribe.

 

What to do:

If you are in a rush, just pay and go.

However, if you have time to spare, request to speak to the supervisor or make things difficult for the corrupted official.

 

5. Airport porter theft

 

How it works:

There have been reports of airport porters / baggage handlers who open up luggage to steal valuables.

 

What to do:

With your check-in luggage, there are four key steps to protecting your property:

 

6. Taxi spray scam 

Taxis in Philippines

Taxis in Philippines. Source: newsinfo.inquirer.net

 

How it works:

This is a scary scam to be a victim of.

There have reports where a substance is sprayed into the taxi / vehicle’s air conditioner which causes whoever inhaling it to feel giddy and faint.

The eventual outcome is that you will be robbed and maybe abandoned on the road. For females, the consequences could be worse.

 

What to do:

If you hear a spray sound in the car, or if you see that the driver has a towel over his nose, do NOT take the cab.

 

7. No meter

 

How it works:

This is a common scam taxi drivers in many emerging countries pull off.

They claim their meter is down and so they charge you an outrageous price.

 

What to do:

Only board a cab that uses a meter unless you know the price well and am able to haggle at the start of the trip.

You can estimate the fair price of any route by checking:

  • With your hotel / hostel staff.
  • An online taxi fare estimator / online travel forums.
  • Taxi booking apps like MiCab, Grab.

Take a photo of the car plate and also of the driver’s license in case anything goes wrong.

To complain / report a rouge driver, you can do so by text to the authorities – the LTFRB 0921 448 7777

If all these are too much effort, you can also consider:

  • Using a rental car from AutoEurope: over 60 years of industry experience, super reliable with best price guarantee.
  • Arranging private transport through your hotel / hostel or through day tours platforms like Klook (best in Asia).

 

8. Rigged meters (Batingting)

 

How it works:

Sometimes, taking a cab with the meter running is not necessarily the most reliable bet, as there have been reports of “Batingting” taxis with rigged meters.

Watch out for these red flags:

  • Tampered / missing meter seal.
  • Only fare is displayed (without distance and waiting time).
  • Not being able to find taxi name, taxi operator number, taxi car plate number inside the cab.
  • Driver clicking something, probably a hidden switch.
  • If driver drives slowly at a high speed area to prevent the meter from jumping too wildly.

 

What to do:

Stay alert and watch the meter. Ideally, know how much a certain route should cost as mentioned earlier.

If you suspect something amiss, note the taxi name and car plate number and report the taxi to the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board.

You can do so by texting the details to 0921-4487777 or call 426-2515.

 

9. Unofficial airport taxis

 

How it works:

Again, a very common scam around the world, do be extremely careful not to board unofficial cabs at the airports.

Many things can happen to you.

You could be robbed, be driven to a secluded area and then threatened to pay an exorbitant amount, or be asked to pay an excessive amount at the end of the trip despite whatever price was initially agreed upon.

By the way, it is illegal for these touts to solicit at the airport.

 

What to do:

Do not take an unofficial taxi. If you do take one, take a photo of the car plate and also of the driver’s license.

Else, consider these other options:

  • Get a cab from the official queue.
  • Pre-arrange vehicle pick up through your hotel / hostel or through day tour platforms like Klook (best in Asia).
  • Book a rental car from AutoEurope (over 60 years of industry experience, super reliable with best price guarantee).
  • Use a taxi booking app like MiCab, Grab.

Alternatively, check out this video below on how to get the cheapest taxi at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

 

10. Taxi robbery

 

How it works:

If there’s someone else inside the taxi, do NOT take it as they might work together to rob you.

There have also been reports where taxi doors cannot be opened from inside the cab due to a childproof locking mechanism or a faulty door handle.

This is to prevent you from escaping should the driver attempt to rob or kidnap you.

 

What to do:

Besides making sure no one is in the cab, always take the backseat to make sure no one is hiding on the floor in the back.

Also check that the door can be opened from the inside

To minimize any losses, carry a cheap spare wallet with some cash inside to give up when faced with an armed robber, while hiding other valuables in a money belt or hidden pouch

And to protect yourself, get travel insurance (e.g. World Nomads, trusted by Lonely Planet and National Geographic – check our review) for two key purposes:

  • Monetary compensation for any loss of valuables.
  • Medical coverage in case you are assaulted.

 

11. Taxi driving off with your luggage

Road to Leyte

Road to Leyte

 

How it works:

There have been reports of rouge taxi drivers driving off with passengers’ luggage in the boot.

 

What to do:

If possible, keep your luggage beside you in the car.

Valuables should also be kept on yourself in a money belt / hidden pouch and in an anti-theft bag, not in your large luggage.

Else, note the driver’s name and car plate number and report to the authorities if he drives off your luggage.

Finally, make sure to have a good travel insurance (e.g. World Nomads, trusted by Lonely Planet and National Geographic – check our review) to cover loss of luggage / valuables within.

 

12. Horse buggies

Horse buggies

Horse buggies. Source: travelswithtwo.com

 

How it works:

These horse draw buggies are like an open invitation to getting scammed, much like the tuk tuks in Thailand and cyclos in Vietnam.

One trick they use over here is that midway through your ride, your driver will disembark and allow his “boss” to take over.

At the end of the trip, the “boss” will bring you to an isolated, secluded area and then demand up to 10 or 20x the originally agreed upon amount.

 

What to do:

Avoid engaging.

If you must, again we recommend concealing your valuables with a money belt / hidden pouch, and to use a cheap, spare wallet with little cash inside to act as a decoy.

This is to show the scammers that there is little point in exploiting you when caught in such a situation.

 

13. Motorbike rental damage

Source: YouTube – senseofstile

 

How it works:

There have been reports where bike seats were slashed overnight for no apparent reason.

This allows the bike owner / shop to claim an exorbitant compensation when the bike is returned.

 

What to do:

There is not much you can do to prevent such a situation.

What you can do is to thoroughly inspect the bike upon collection.

Also take a few photos before use in case the bike owner / shop makes up some wild claims about damage to the bike.

You could also buy bike insurance from the shop.

 

C. MISCELLANEOUS

1. Fake hotel front desk call

Sea Dream Resort

Sea Dream Resort

 

How it works:

The standard set-up is where scammers use smuggled phones to act as fake front desk personnel, calling guests in the wee hours of the night / morning requesting for credit card information.

They claim that the hotel’s computer system has crashed or that there is an error with the card number, and this catches a number of sleepy guests off guard.

Another convincing variation is that the scammer is calling just to verify your card details on record. He will provide the last 4 digits of your card, which is obviously wrong.

When you point out the error, he will act confused and ask you to read out all the digits on your card.

Other situations could be claiming that you have won a free night (exploiting greed) or even posing as the local authority investigating a fraud case (exploiting fear).

 

What to do:

Do not provide your credit card details over the phone. Cut the phone and report to the hotel’s staff.

 

2. Money changers’ sleight of hand

Philippine pesos

Philippine pesos. Source: financeasia.com

 

How it works:

Money changers in Indonesia are experts at the sleight of hand trick, but shady money changers in Philippines are no slouches either.

These tricksters are usually found at dark / secluded areas. They attract tourists by placing large sign boards at the main roads advertising rates that are too good to be true.

They may also hire touts to pull you in. Once you are hooked, there are a few ways they can trick you.

Firstly, they might claim to only have notes of a small denomination. As they count the money in front of you, they use a sleight of hand trick, dropping a few notes without you realizing.

And because this is quite a huge stack of small denomination notes, some tourists either do not bother counting or might be careless when counting.

Should you note the shortfall, the money changer can simply admit to an error, or claim that there’s a commission charge (a ludicrous 5-10%), or that they do not have the change required.

Besides this sleight of hand trick, another trick these scammers use is to use a fake calculator.

This can be quite effective due to the large denomination of the rupiah (i.e. difficult for you to do a mental sum to compare against).

 

What to do:

Change money only at official, reputable sources.

Beware of the sleight of trick and also calculate the amount you should get and not fall prey to hidden commission charges.

 

3. Card skimming

 

How it works:

There have been reports of card skimming but it has been difficult to identify the sources.

For instance, it could be an electronic pickpocket who swipe your cards with a RFID scanner, or a restaurant staff which swipe your card using a separate card machine.

 

What to do:

The best way to protect yourself is to use cash instead of your card. If you must use your card, make sure to see how it is handled.

Also, consider using a RFID blocking wallet. That will prevent your cards’ details from being skimmed by thieves with a mobile RFID reader / scanner.

 

4. Rigged ATM

Signs of a rigged ATM

Signs of a rigged ATM

 

How it works:

Be especially careful at ATMs, as these are ripe spots for easy robberies.

Also, cover your pin while typing, because there might have been cameras set up to capture your PIN and a card reader to capture your card’s details.

There have also been reports where a scammer distract you by tapping your shoulders while you are withdrawing money and claim that you have dropped a $10 note.

Most people would turn and at this point, an accomplice will appear from your blind side to steal your card.

Also, if you haven’t realize, scammer #1 would have already seen and memorized your PIN if you didn’t bother covering when typing it in earlier.

 

What to do:

Avoid using ATMs at dark, secluded areas. Use only at controlled environments such as in banks.

Scan the area for suspicious looking characters and cover your PIN when typing it in.

Also, although not directly relevant, consider using a RFID blocking wallet.

That will prevent your cards’ details from being skimmed by thieves with a mobile RFID reader / scanner.

 

5. Kidnapping

Kidnapped victims

Kidnapped victims. Source: philstar.com

 

How it works:

This happens more so in South Philippines, where many suffer from poverty.

Throw in extremist groups who kidnap for ransom, it’s best to avoid or to stay alert if visiting this part of the Philippines.

In 2017, kidnapping cases at casinos in Manila have also been reported. This was perpetrated by a gang of over 40 people who monitored targets over several days.

When they spot someone who seems rich but keeps losing, they will tell the target that it might be better to try another casino where they might have better luck.

Once the target is out of the casino, he / she will be kidnapped.

 

What to do:

Stay alert and watch if you are being monitored. Also avoid secluded places especially at night and move around in groups ideally

It may also be a good idea to keep a separate bank account just for traveling:

  • Do not keep too much cash in there.
  • Only carry a bank card of that account so that even if kidnapped or if the card is stolen, you would not have much to lose.

Further, get travel insurance (e.g. World Nomads, trusted by Lonely Planet and National Geographic – check our review) for two key purposes:

  • Monetary compensation for any loss of valuables.
  • Medical coverage in case you are assaulted.

 

D. KEY SAFETY ISSUES

This is not a fear mongering exercise, as most visits are trouble free as long as you exercise some common sense.

However, it is always better to be safe than sorry.

Information below has been compiled from:

                                                     

1. Violent crime, hazards, hotspots, terrorism, civil unrest

Map of safe and unsafe regions in Philippines

Map of safe and unsafe regions in Philippines. Source: smartraveller.gov.au

 

How it works:

A brief summary:

  • Violent crime: high level of violent crime, particularly in the South (Mindanao, Sulu archipelago, Palawan, central Visayas region)
  • Hazards: n.a.
  • Hotspots: Islamist and criminal group active in the tri-border area between Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia.
  • Terrorism: several groups (New People’s Army, Abu Sayyaf Group, Jemaah Islamiyah, Moro National Liberation Front, Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF)) operate in the rural areas.
  • Civil unrest: demonstrations and large public gatherings can occur.

 

What to do:

Stay alert, avoid secluded areas, stick to the main paths and don’t look like an easy victim (e.g. looking like a tourist / flaunting valuables).

Monitor local media in case of any threats. Avoid the danger zones and demonstrations.

Areas to avoid (due to terrorist attacks and kidnappings) include:

  • Mindanao region
  • Sulu Archipelago and the southern Sulu Sea,
  • Davao City

 

2. Medical care

Philippine General Hospital

Philippine General Hospital. Source: Wikimedia – Patrickroque01

 

How it works:

Medical care is adequate in the major cities, diseases to vaccinate against / watch out for include:

  • Insect borne diseases: chikunganya, dengue, zika, filariasis.
  • Food and water borne diseases: travellers’ diarrhoea, hepatitis cholera.
  • Animal borne diseases: avian influenza, rabies.
  • Human borne diseases: tuberculosis, HIV.

 

What to do:

If you can’t afford travel insurance (e.g. World Nomads – our review), you can’t afford to travel, as:

  • Emergency health services can cost a bomb.
  • Insurance providers can make complex logistical arrangements to get you the best medical treatment fast.

Vaccinations to consider:

  • All travellers: measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, flu shot.
  • Most travellers: Hepatitis A, typhoid
  • Some travellers: Hepatitis B, Japanese Encephalitis (if visiting rural areas), rabies (outdoor activities, activities involving animals), malaria

Prevent insect bites:

  • Protective clothing.
  • Insect repellents.
  • Insecticide treated bed / cot nets.
  • Plug-in insecticides.
  • Avoid wooded and bushy areas with high grass.

Food safety:

  • Practise safe hygiene such as washing hands with soap.
  • Only drink bottled water or water that has been boiled.
  • Avoid unpasteurized dairy products, ice cubes, uncooked and undercooked food.

 

3. Natural disasters

 

How it works:

Philippines sits on the ring of fire and so is subject to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions:

  • Earthquakes: numerous (e.g. 30 between May 2016 to 2017) which may trigger tsunamis.
  • Volcanoes: numerous. Avoid volcanic areas during and after heavy rainfalls (water enters lava dome, turns into steam, and the increased pressure triggers a blast). Mayon, Taal and Bulusan volcanoes marked by authorities to be avoided.
  • Typhoons: May to December, can cause flooding, landslides and roads to be impassable.

 

What to do:

Effective preparation and prevention involves staying at the “right” place, travelling at the “right” time and getting travel insurance (e.g. World Nomadsour review) that covers natural disasters.

Check the latest media reportsweather forecasts and sources such as:

Reacting to one:

  • Earthquakes: drop (to hands and knees), cover (head and neck with arms), hold on (to sturdy furniture); expect aftershocks.
  • Volcanic eruption: avoid areas downwind and river valleys downstream of the volcano, do not drive in heavy ash fall, seek shelter (if no need to evacuate) or high ground if no shelter (crouch down away from volcano, cover head with arms).
  • Typhoons: stay indoors away from windows, do not use electrical appliances / equipment, do not head out and touch debris (more injuries / deaths happen after than during).

 

4. Transport safety

 

How it works:

Driving here can be really congested, unsafe sometimes, and unpredictable.

Several factors to look out for:

  • Roads are frequently congested.
  • Driver behaviour is unpredictable.
  • Poor driving conditions.

Other transport concerns:

  • Buses and boats are generally overcrowded and poorly maintained.

 

What to do:

Make sure your travel insurance (e.g. World Nomadsour review) covers travel accidents.

Driving:

  • Only book via legitimate platforms (e.g. AutoEurope (over 60 years of industry experience, super reliable with best price guarantee).
  • Check latest media reports and weather forecast.
  • Stay alert, wear seatbelts, keep doors locked and windows up

Other transportation:

  • To move around, taxis are recommended (call or use a taxi booking app).

 

E. GETTING HELP

1. Emergency numbers to call

Philippines police

Philippines police: Source: gov.ph

 

  • All emergencies: 911

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10 Comments

  1. Sev

    Beware of Anna Lou Juario Andrino as she is a Scammer who will ask for Money. She and her friends in real pretend to be lovers or friends where they will tell you 1 thing though they will try to scam you off. She is from Davao, Philippines where can read what immoral activity she has been doing just to get hold of your money

    Reply
  2. Ram

    Just ran into the black jack scam but left before the third hand got a bad feeling so I left. The way they did it first I was approached by guy and girl claiming if I can help sister to find accommodation when she arrived in t.o. I thought I could a good deed .when I got to house sister was at hospital.they offered drink and teach how to play black jack he said he been a dealer at casino for years .he said that he would put the money up so it would be no loss and he willing to pay 25 percent.all of sudden a man wake in a stack of 20000 $ they dealt two hands which I won .i started to feel somethings wrong didn’t finish the third hand and left .

    Reply
    • Jgb

      A friend of mine just got scammed out of 120 dollars usa with this scam of black jack game Rule 1 do not go to persons house for anything !

      Reply
  3. Happy Nuts

    Also refrain from buying with Klook in the Philippines.
    There are several reports that they had used their credit cards with klook and after few days their money from their cards are being stolen.

    Another one is selling expired vouchers and you cannot get your money back since the providers are from a local or third party.

    Reply
  4. scott pool

    Yes I do not want to be taken could you give me some advice on the airport planting a bullet on me is no way to operate . I would appreciate it if you could contact me thank you I really appreciate that I will be coming up to the Philippines in order to live there my wife is already a resident thank you .

    Reply
  5. Paul Paquette

    I was a near victim once. Two nice girls hanging out in the more heavily tourist area of central Manila. They asked me to take their photo. I did and started chatting. Went to a the cathedral and then they suggested we go to another one I’d love the other side of the city. Just then a car pulled up with two of the roughest looking guys in it. The door swung open and I immediately stepped back just as the girls were pushing me to the door! I pushed one of them away and they jumped in the car and sped off. I couldn’t believe it was daylight with lots of people around and these jokers were trying to kidnap me! Went to the policeman on the corner and told him what had happened. He just laughed a little and shrugged.
    Not ten minutes later, three girls tried it again. Same story about helping them take a picture…. my turn to laugh and shrug!
    If you are a single tourist, you have to be ten times more vigilant!

    Reply
  6. Tim

    Yeah I was in Manila in April 2017 and the latest scam is someone will befriend you then say its his/her daughters birthday tomorrow but the person don’t have enough money to buy a birthday cake and is asking for a donation. I got caught the first time it happened yet got approached on two other occasions. I wear a bumbag always for security not a wallet and i carry a small roll of toilet paper as the public toilets have no toilet paper only a bowl of water. Be alert always and take heed of what is mentioned in the scam section. Tips from porters are a big thing too. Goodluck

    Reply
  7. Jgb

    Scam!! Went to local dentist to get that hollywood smile ,2 months later problems went back to philippines , but saw smile makeover dentist was told they put in plastic teeth went to old dentist they tried to denie it , want me to come back Hell no ! Rule # 2 never get dental work in philippines !!!

    Reply
  8. Chardonnay

    I met a girl online charity bermejo,cha cha,charity,from Cebu in the Philippines. After chatting for months decision was made to visit her which I did . All the usual things happened meeting family,making out she was protective of me! Everything went well to be honest or so I thought! So we arrange for her to come to the uk. I had a phone call saying she was in hospital with malaria!!!! Which is very rare! And wanted me to pay the doctor not her for medical treatment! Which I refused. She was in bed with her next victim for a week, when she came out asked for the flight money of which she would pay half! Thinking it’s genuine as this is what we had arranged and paid! I did some checking to find out if the booking was paid for and was informed that it was not!!! Contact was made to confront her and all she said was sorry,admitting what she had done and was then deleted from all contact. Remember the name charity bermejo from Cebu. Lesson learned.

    Reply
  9. Renato

    I got scam at Clark airport (Angeles City). I bought a sim card for 2 weeks and it finished the credits after 1 week.

    There is another one that one guy told me. One girl over 18 yo goes with you to your hotel and suddenly her friend less than 18 yo knock the door. She comes in and you are in trouble after that.

    Reply

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